So, last weekend schoolpsychnerd
and I went with the AJET trip down to Fukuoka for the Nihon Sumō Kyōkai
taking place there. We got up at 6 a.m., took the bus into Hiroshima City, and then went over to the train station and boarded the bus to Fukuoka, which took around 5 hours to get there. I slept most of the way after discovering that our PSP had failed to charge. :-p
The actual sumō competition, when we got there, was quite interesting. The individual bouts were quite short--around half were less than 5 seconds, and most lasted no more than 15. The point, for those who don't know, is for each rikishi
to attempt to either A) force the other one out of the ring or B) force the other one to touch the ground with anything other than the soles of their feet. Sometimes, a rikishi
would get turned around on the initial charge, which meant that it was a simple matter for his opponent to force him out. Usually there would be a brief struggle before one rikishi
got the upper hand. Sometimes, they would rest--just pause in whatever position they were in, take a few breaths, and then continue. A few matches went on for a long time. The longest was over a minute, and went on long enough that a rest was called for, though the rikishi
didn't change positions--they just hung on each other and caught their breath until the referee had them continue.
I had a hard time figuring out what meant the match was ready to start. The referee didn't make any signal, and the pre-match preperations by the rikishi
were almost always longer than the match itself. They would stomp the ground, stare at each other, throw salt into the ring (to prevent evil spirits from entering), and so on. I finally thought that it was when both rikishi
had both their hands touching the start lines, but in the higher-ranked matches (where the preparation period was longer), they would sometimes do that and then go through the stomping, staring, salt-throwing cycle again. There was also the occasional false start, when only one rikishi
would rush the other. When that happened, they'd start again.
It was interesting to watch, though it went a bit long for my taste. The
's match wasn't actually that exciting, and he lost anyway (as a note, check out that picture--the belt the guy is wearing is the same as the white rope used to mark out Shinto shrines). There was one rikishi
who weighed over 250 kilograms--when he squatted after entering the ring, he was spherical. His sumō name was, amusingly, Yamamoto Yama, which means something like "Essence of the mountain."
After the match, we didn't have anything planned for the rest of the day, so schoolpsychnerd
and I, along with some other people who had come, went out to try to find a restaurant. The first place we went was full (though I'm not sure whether it was full, or "crap, a bunch of gaijin
, tell them we're full" full, since it certainly looked like they had plenty of room), but the second place we went to had us go in and sit at the sushi bar. I ordered omakase
(literally, "I entrust it"--it means that the chef decides what I eat). They told me that it was expensive, but I said it was okay--it was only 3,100円, which is less than I'd pay for a similar meal at any of the sushi bars we went to back home. And as it turned out, it was amazing. I talked a bit with the chef, too, using my limited Japanese. I was able to tell him where we were from, which dishes I liked, ask what a couple of the things he was serving me were (and watch him act out a duck, which was awesome). I'm getting better, though more slowly than I'd like.
After that, we went to a bar with crappy (from my perspective, most of the other people loved it) music, but they had a "Philadelphia Steak Sandwich" on the menu. I had to try it, so even though I wasn't super hungry I ordered one. It was pretty good, but it was no cheesesteak--it lacked cheese, for one thing, and it had some sort of spicy sauce on it that made it taste more like Italian Beef. Considering I'm in Japan, though, I thought they made a good effort.
The next day, we went to Space World in northern Kyūshū, which is a bit like Six Flags except with a space theme. Sadly, it was a drizzly day, so most of the rides were closed, and we stayed far too long for my liking. After we were done there, we went home.
A good trip.